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Reviews > Base Camp Gear > Car Equipment > Yakima Skybox Pro Cargo Box > Test Report by Coy Ray Starnes
Yakima SkyBox Pro 16s
Test Report Series by Coy Starnes
Initial Report: October 18, 2007
Field Report: January 7, 2008
Long Term Report: March 1 2008
SkyBox Pro 16s ready for duty!
I live in Northeast Alabama. I enjoy hunting, fishing, canoeing, and most other outdoor activities but backpacking is my favorite pastime. I enjoy hiking with friends and family or solo. I hike throughout the year and actually hike less in the hot humid months of summer. My style is slow and steady and my gear is light. However, I will sacrifice weight for comfort and durability. A typical 3-season load for me is around 20 lb (9 kg) not counting food or water.
Having never used a roof storage system and only seeing one up close a few times, I wasn't sure what to expect. I just want a way to store my gear and declutter the inside of my car and trunk. After a close inspection of the SkyBox Pro 16s I'm satisfied it will hold a lot of stuff. It is also quite attractive now that I have it installed on my Roadmaster.
What It Is
The Yakima SkyBox Pro 16s is designed to fit shorter roofs but is still very roomy. As the name hints, it has a capacity of 16 cu ft (453 L) and Yakima says it holds gear for 2 to 5 people. I guess this depends on how much each person packs? I do know that according to my calculations I need to limit my load to right at 100 lbs (45.3 kg). My Yakima roof rack is rated for 150 lb (68 kg) and the SkyBox Pro 16s weights roughly 50 lb (23 kg) which leaves the 100 lb (45.3 kg) for gear.
According to Yakima, the new lid is 50% stiffer than our other boxes, so it vibrates less and is easier to open and shut one-handed. The new lid shape is easy to grab onto, even if you have particularly clumsy meathooks. The lid will open form either side (but not both at once). The photo on the left shows one of the two dual opening hinges. It comes with preinstalled SKS locks. The Quick-Installation mounting hardware fits round, square and most factory crossbars. The new aerodynamic shape reduces drag and cuts back on wind noise. It fits crossbar spreads as short as 24 in (61 cm). It has an integrated track system for accessories like a cargo net or base pad. The SkyBox can be fitted with a small LED light (must be purchased separately). I installed the light (pictured on the right) before putting the SkyBox on my vehicle. Below are pictures of the Quick-Installation mounting hardware.
What It Isn't
I doubt it is Clark Griswold proof. If I happen to drive under something lower than the SkyBox Pro 16s I expect it would damage it. It is not a coffin. However, while it sat in my living room floor over night it creeped my wife out as she thought it looked too much like one. I can't say I disagree.
The SkyBox Pro 16s was fairly easy to install following the provided instructions. I say following the directions, but I actually read them the night before and put it on the next morning without needing to refer back to them again. The directions also suggested having a friend to help so I sweet talked my wife into lending a hand. This worked well as we each had only about 25 lb (11.3 kg) each to lift. In fact, I could lift it easily if it were not so bulky. Installation went something like this.
The 4 jaws are each mounted on a sliding like rail and can move back and forth about a foot (30 cm). I loosened those so that I could move each jaw into place. I also loosened the jaw latch mechanisms so that each jaw was well open. The wife and I lifted the SkyBox up and over onto my roof rack rails. I then positioned each jaw just forward of the crossbars and locked the sliding part down. I then slid the whole box towards the rear (jaws still open) of my car so that the jaws were over my crossbars. Then it was a simple matter to lock and unlock the jaws and tighten the thumb wheels a little more each time until I had a tight fit. I took a few quick measurements to verify that I had properly positioned the SkyBox. It was quickly apparent that centering it side to side would make it harder to reach inside so I chose to mount it more to the left (driver side) as shown below.
SkyBox slightly off center for easier access
Removing the SkyBox is as simple as flipping up the handles that lock the jaws in place. The SkyBox can then be slid forward and lifted off my vehicle. It can then be stored on the available Cargo Box Hanger (must be purchased separately).
I then turned my attention to the utility mat and cargo net (also available separately). It would have been easier to install these before putting the SkyBox on the roof. I had to open the doors and stand inside each one (front and back doorway) to get it all in place. The roof rack bars were constantly poking me in the belly as I worked. Here is the inside with pad and cargo net installed
Cargo Net and Utility Matt
Once I finished this I went about opening and closing the lid a few times and tugging on the SkyBox to be sure it was secure. Satisfied everything was in order and the SkyBox was not going anywhere, I took it for a quick spin around the block.
Testing It out
I went for a short test ride and did not go very fast. I actually did not hear any noise up to 40 MPH (64 KPH). Between 40 and 55 MPH (64 and 89 KPH) I did notice a little but it was not bad. Not enough to really notice if I were not trying to hear it and certainly not enough to need to turn the radio up. I didn't have a chance to go faster due to the narrow and winding roads I was on.
After I got home I decided to try locking the SkyBox. I simply put the key in place and turned it as far as it would go and removed the key. Then I opend the box. Hmmm, what's going on? I fiddled with it some more and accidentally pushed in on the whole handle and it locked firmly. I then looked at the directions which plainly state "Insert key - Turn key - Push knob in". I guess directions do come in handy ever so often...
I will use the SkyBox Pro to de-clutter my car first. Then on hiking trips I will use it to haul my gear and if others are along, their gear (without exceeding the weight limit of course).
I will see how secure it rides around curvy back roads and on faster straight roads. I try to observe the speed limit and usually set my cruise to avoid going over 75 MPH (121 KPH) on the interstate. I am curious as to how easy it will be to get things in and out of the SkyBox Pro. My car does not sit very high which should make it easier to life heavy items in and out but I will see first hand. Once loaded, will items stay in place inside the SkyBox Pro or can they be heard moving around in sharp turns or hard braking? I have the cargo net which should help in this regard. I will also keep checking for wind noise, which so far, seems negiligible..
I am especially interested in seeing how much it will affect my gas mileage. I check this at every fill up and right now I am getting up to 27 MPG (11.6 KPL) on longer trips and about 25 MPG (10.7 KPL) when just going to work, church, or short rides etc. Yakima claims "New aerodynamic shape reduces drag, and is wicked fun to test in a wind tunnel". Unfortunately, I don't have access to a wind tunnel but I can and will check my fuel mileage.
Is it easy too take the SkyBox Pro on and off in case I need to remove it for cleaning? My installation showed that having an extra hand makes this a fairly simple process. Will hosing it out with my garden hose work for a good cleaning? The directions say to use a mild detergent and NEVER go in an automatic carwash with it on. I will use watered down dish washing liquid and hand wash it when needed. It also says to lubricate locks and hardware with graphite or other dry lubricants.
This concludes my Initial Report. I will add my Field Testing information in approximately 2 months so stay tuned. I wish to extend my thanks to Yakima and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to test the SkyBox.
January 07, 2007
Typical SkyBox load
Testing Locations and Conditions
I have used the SkyBox for right at 1000 miles (1610 km) so far and it has been on the car every mile it has been driven since installing it. I took the SkyBox off one time just to see if I could do it alone but put it right back on. It wasn't easy but is doable. I have driven slowly on crooked country roads and the speed limit on freeways with a 70 mph (113 kph) speed limit. Unfortunately, with the extreme drought it has seen limited exposure to rain and no ice or snow but it was 12 F (-11 C) as I drove home from work last Wednesday morning. It has been as warm as 70 F (21 C) a few days. So far all my driving has been in northeast Alabama.
Field Test Results
I have been very pleased with the performance of the SkyBox so far. It has made keeping my back seat and trunk clear of junk much easier. In fact, it really came in handy when I was a paul bearer at a funeral and was able to haul four of us (actually I could have hauled all six). Before the SkyBox this would have included a long clean out of my back seat.
It was also very handy when my son had knee surgery recently. I experienced riding in my daughter's small car with all four of the family and it was no fun with his crutches. I was in the back seat and the crutches had to ride between the two front seats and kept poking at me. In my car, we put his crutches in the SkyBox and everyone had plenty of room. I even put them up in it when taking him to therapy even though it was only the two of us and they would have fit in the rear seat.
The SkyBox also came in very handy when visiting the in-laws and we needed to haul a guitar home that they had borrowed. It was no problem to plop it in the SkyBox and it rode the 53 miles (85 km) home just fine.
But mostly, I used the SkyBox to keep my trunk and back seat less cluttered. After keeping my tool belt in it a few weeks, I went back to keeping it in the trunk as I was afraid I might actually break a window dragging my nail bag out with the hammer attached all the time. I relegated the SkyBox to things I did not need as often such as spare boots, a pair of coveralls, my basketball and a pump. Then, when I needed to haul something big or awkward like the crutches or the guitar, it was ready for the job. In fact, I didn't have to move anything out to fit these items in.
I did find that the SkyBox is not real easy to open every time. It would hang on the front and require some force to open. Then the next time it would open easier but always seemed to hang just a bit. I was always opening it form the drivers side since I placed it more to that side so I decided to see if it might open easier from the far side. It was much easier to open from that side. I took a closer look at the front left and noticed a ball on the top lid that fits down inside a pocket with a little spring like catch. It is apparently hanging a little on the spring loaded catch. Add to that the complicated hinges needed to allow dual opening and for the lid to close down with a lot of lip on the outside and I can see that perfectly easy opening every time may be asking a lot...well, if not for the fact that the other side opens real easy. Oh well, it is not bad enough to make me want to slide the SkyBox over to access from the other side.
I also noticed that even on my relatively low roofed car, it was not real easy to get everything in and out, especially things that ended up on the far side or small items that didn't stick up. To get anything laying on the bottom out, I need to stand in the car doorway (front or back door will work). Too bad this is right where my roof crossbars are located. Whether standing in my front or rear doorway, they always seemed to be in the wrong place (my gut). It would have been perfect if I could stand where the pillar separating the front and rear doors is located as this is dead center of the front and rear crossbars. It is also a little difficult to reach the overhead light without standing on the doorway.
I was very pleased with the limited amount of road noise I encountered. In fact, I believe my car is quiter with the SkyBox in place. That is, it is quieter than the roof rack is unloaded, but not quieter than the car without anything on top. My roof rack makes a whistling noise when unloaded and this went away with the SkyBox in place. After the first few miles when I became confidant it was not going anywhere I basically forgot it was up there. I would be reminded of it when I was riding along with the sun to my right and slightly behind me as it produced a perfect silhouette to watch along the side of the road. Then I had to remember to watch the road and not the SkyBox...
I was very pleased with the fuel economy I got after the first full tank with the SkyBox in place. After a considerably bigger drop in fuel economy on the second tank I am less thrilled. Here are the notes I have taken during the test thus far.
Filled up right after putting the SkyBox on my car. Most of that tank was on a long trip but regardless, I got 26.2 mpg. I have been getting around 25 mpg on tanks around home (i.e. no long trips)
next fill up: 454.3 miles on 18.867 gal = 24.07 mpg.
next fill up: 494.4 miles on 22.263 gal = 22.2 mpg.
This would be 731 km on 71 L = 10.3 km/L and 796 km on 84 L = 9.4 km/L.
As can be seen, my gas mileage went down some (but not a lot) on the first tank and then more (a lot more) on the second tank. I am not sure exactly why both were not the same as both tanks were used under similar driving conditions but I suspect the colder weather may have been part of the reason. I needed to crank my car and let it defrost the windows on several occasions on that last tank and none on the tank before. Anyways, going with my usual 25 mpg fuel economy, I came up with a reduction of 3.6% on the first tank and 12.6% on the second. I will see what my next tank averages which may not tell me anything if it stays cold. Also, I did drive more carefully during the first few trips with the SkyBox on...but not that carefully.
Overall I have been pleased with the SkyBox. It is rock solid and it has been very handy to have the extra room in my car it has provided. If only my bike would fit in it. Believe me, I checked and it will not...
I plan to leave the SkyBox in place for the rest of the test and continue to use it as I see fit. There is no telling what I may need to haul. I received the SkyBox just days after my last (road) backpacking trip and family sickness have kept my hiking local these past few months but I am planning a trip soon. I will use the SkyBox for my camping gear on that trip.
This concludes my Field Report. I will add my Long Term Testing information in approximately 2 months so stay tuned. I wish to extend my thanks to Yakima and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to test the SkyBox.
Long Term Report: March 1 2008
Family emergencies have continued to conspired against my far off hiking plans so all my hiking has consisted of local trips. However, one of these emergencies resulted in a lot of unplanned miles with the SkyBox so it still got plenty of use and served me well during the Long Term Report testing period.
Test Locations and Conditions.
During the Long Term test I put just over 1200 miles (1932 km) on my car with the SkyBox installed and another 500 miles (805 km) with it off. Actually, my son put all of the miles on the car with the SkyBox off. Most driving was here in Northeast Alabama but I did drive about 420 miles (676 km) on a trip to Memphis Tennessee and back with the SkyBox on. Speeds and road conditions were similar to those in my Field Report except for much colder weather and finally some much needed rain.
Long Term Test
I really wanted to nail down the gas mileage inconsistencies I noticed earlier. I still had some tanks that seemed to do a bit better than others with the SkyBox installed but nothing as drastic and nothing as low as the one tank. For instance, I got 23.3 and 23.6 MPG (9.9 and 10 km/L) on my first 2 tanks (since the Field Report). Both these tanks were mostly short distance drives but the next tank involved a drive to Memphis Tennessee. I had filled up a week prior so this tank had about half the miles as around town/stop and go and half as a long trip. I got 24.8 MPG (10.5 km/L) on this tank. I filled up right before heading back, and again, used half the tank on the return and half around town/stop and go and got 25.6 MPG (10.9 km/L) on this tank.
The above trip to Memphis was to pick up my son who had just had knee surgery. I know different drivers make a difference but he couldn't drive so I drove over (by my self) and back (with him as a passenger). Cody and his luggage added around 250 lb (113 kg) to the car but I still got better gas mileage on the trip with him as a passenger. The only other major difference in both tanks was, I was driving in some major storms and into a strong headwind/crosswind on the trip over and had a strong tailwind and dry but cold conditions on the trip home. I actually made the drive home in 30 minutes less time and drove the speed limit of 65 MPH (105 km/h) most of the time. I piddled on the trip over in the storms and strong winds and even drove 10 to 20 MPH (16 to 32 km/h) for a few miles in some of the worst storms. I was in one county while it was under severe thunderstorm warning and in another county while it was under a tornado warning. The radio advised to stay off the highway I was on and near my location in both instances. I could feel the car being pushed in some of the crosswinds but I can't quantify how much was due to the SkyBox. With more surface area to catch the crosswind I am sure it made it a little more noticeable than it would have been without the SkyBox on the car.
I mentioned one period of time when the SkyBox was not on my car. I considered leaving the SkyBox on the car when Cody drove it the week his truck was being fixed. However, I wanted to see what kind of gas mileage the car would get without the SkyBox. Unfortunately, his gas mileage was not all that much better than mine. He ended up having to fill up in Corinth Mississippi and I asked him to check that tank and the next. He got 24.3 MPG (10.3 km/L) on that tank which had the SkyBox on for the first 300 miles (483 km). On his next fill-up he got 26.1 MPG (11.1 km/L) without the SkyBox. That is not much better than what I got with the SkyBox on the same trip on the same road but he did do quite a bit of driving around Germantown during the ensuing week on that tank. I have no doubt he drives faster than I do and he agrees. In fact, he says the car is happiest at around 75 MPH (121 km/h).
Long Term Usage and Issues
The SkyBox Pro 16s did a stellar job of keeping my suitcase dry on the trip in the storms. I was driving in downpours with very high winds and if it was going to leak, this would be the time. On the trip back I had my son's luggage in addition to mine but we did not put his laptop up there due to the very cold weather. It was below freezing for nearly the whole 210 mile (338 km) ride home.
As I mentioned earlier, taking the Skybox on and off is not easy by myself. When I removed it for my son to borrow the car, I recruited my daughter to help me. We managed just fine but she said it sure is heavy. I then revealed to her that I did not empty the SkyBox. When I got the car back from my son I emptied it out before putting it back on but he helped this time so it didn't matter as much. Still, I would recommend emptying it before toting it far.
I detailed the problem of the lid sticking during opening from the driver's side in my Field Report. I was hoping that with more use it would get easier but so far, no such luck. On the plus side, it still opens smoothly on the other side.
The SkyBox Pro 16s does exactly what it is supposed to do and does it with style. I like extra room it provides and the way it looks on my car. However, this must be a personal thing as my wife does not like the looks of my car or the SkyBox. I especially liked being able to haul all my friends without having to spend several minutes cleaning out my back seat.
The SkyBox worked great for hauling a guitar, crutches, suitcases, boots, clothes and various other odds and ends. On thing to keep in mind however, is the SkyBox is not heated (or cooled for that matter) so I was cautious about putting any electronics up in it.
I now face the dilemma of whether to leave the SkyBox on permanently or just use it as I need it. I say this because I really like keeping my spare work boots and clothes in it all the time but since it caused about a 2 MPG (0.85 km/L) loss in fuel economy, I don't know if I will leave it on all the time. I don't usually put a lot of miles on my car but with the cost of gas these days even a little better fuel econemy helps.
If I could change one thing on the SkyBox it would be to make the rim of the black bottom half lower (at least on the driver's side) so it would be easier to reach inside. This would not compromise the storage capacity but would make the lid taller and thus heavier so I am not sure from an engineering perspective if it is a good idea or not. A way to fold it flatter when not very full for better wind resistance would be icing on the cake.
This concludes my Yakima SkyBox Pro 16s Report. It was a pleasure testing it and I appreciate that I now have a great place to store extra gear besides in the back seat or trunk of my car. I wish to extend my thanks to Yakima and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to test the SkyBox.
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